As I was cleaning off my desk this morning (okay, I was trying to find something but couldn’t and so I kept moving things and cleaning things on my desk) I came across a survey I first read about a year and a half ago (yes, it’s still on my desk) that looked at the religious/spiritual percentage of my town (I blogged about my original thoughts here).
To be honest, the stats still amaze me. According to this 2013 survey 39.9% of people in my town considered themselves conservative evangelical Christians. 17% said that their faith is really important to them. 17.8% said that they think it is important to attend religious services. And 46.8% said that they consider themselves to be a spiritual person.
After a year and a half, something still isn’t jiving with me here on these stats. One person I know who grew up in my town (but now lives somewhere else) said that this wasn’t the town he remembered growing up.
Or is it.
How often do we think of being spiritual and how often to we live spiritually.
There’s a difference actually.
We are made to be spiritual people. It is hardwired in us to have a spirituality, a philosophical focus and world view (to be honest, atheism really is a form of spirituality but I’m not going into that here). It is in us to want to understand, to want to grow, to want to be connected to something larger than ourselves. And this is where spirituality comes in.
Many believe in Jesus but they don’t like the church or “organized religion.” And who can blame them? The church over the years has done some messed up things in the name of Jesus. And in response, many people want to be a follower of Jesus but not belong to a church or any organization. They want their spirituality private and up to them on how they deal with it.
Others want to politicize their faith and in doing so, politicize Jesus. Just recently I saw a tweet that said that Jesus was born under an oppressive occupying government, made to flee his homeland as a refugee and then grew up under an oppressive occupying government and spoke out against it. Well, yes and no. Jesus came under those conditions but he came to change hearts not regimes. He came to restore and reconcile us to God not knock people down a peg.
And so we are spiritual. But are we living spiritually?
If one says that they are a follower of Jesus, does that make one so? If one goes to church, does that make one a follower of Jesus?
This is where rubber and road meet.
Just being spiritual isn’t what we are to do. The argument that you love Jesus just not the church is not valid. The argument that you are spiritual but do not believe in organize religion is invalid. Have you seen religions? They aren’t all to organized no matter how hard they try to be.
The argument is not valid because it begs the question: What is spirituality? Why are you spiritual but not live spiritually?
This is where faith comes in. Faith works in a dual fashion. It is a gift and it is a responsibility.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
At the same time, the apostle James (the brother of Jesus) writes
“Faith, by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:17, 26
Spirituality needs faith. All belief systems require some aspect of faith in said system (including atheism, but again, not going into that right here). If you are spiritual, then you need faith in the source of your spirituality.
True faith is a saving faith in Jesus. True faith is a faith that is an acknowledge of God through Jesus and it is also a deep rooted assurance given by God, through the Holy Spirit, that all of God’s promises are for us as well, and he will keep them.
To be honest, spirituality isn’t something to be trifled with. You don’t mess around with spirituality. It is greater, bigger, vaster than you could ever imagine and you’re only tapping into the very fringe and top layer of what is truly going on.
If one considered themselves spiritual but… then there’s something missing. One who considers oneself this way is not fully living out their spirituality but instead messing around with something they don’t fully understand.
Can God be fully understood? No. His ways aren’t our ways, His thoughts aren’t our thoughts. But we can begin to know Him, know who He is through Jesus.
In fact, the Spirit given to those who call on Jesus’ name is a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, not of fear or timidity.
But followers of Jesus need one another. You can’t be a Lone Ranger follower of Jesus. You need the body of Christ, the church, to fully grow and become spiritually alive. Alone you can only do so much, but together, you can do so much more in growing and living spiritually. And to tell the truth, it isn’t all that organized. It’s pretty messed up and disorganized in many ways. It’s full of messed up broken people doing their best to reflect Jesus in what they do and growing in their knowledge of Jesus, growing spiritually, living spiritually.
You are welcome to be spiritual as much as you might want, but might I suggest instead to live spiritually instead.